Acrostic

Acrostic (from ἄκρον, extremity, and στίχος, verse), The word commonly signifies the beginning of a verse; but it is sometimes taken for the end or close of it. It ordinarily signifies an ode in which the initial letters of the verses in their order spell a certain word or sentence. In this form acrostics do not occur in the Bible. There are certain parts of the poetical compositions of the Old Testament, however, in which the successive verses or lines in the original begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; these may be called alphabetical acrostics. For instance, in Psalm 119, there are as many stanzas or strophes as there are letters in the alphabet, and each strophe consists of eight double lines, all of which, in each case, begin with that letter of the alphabet corresponding to the place of the strophe in the Psalm — that is, the first eight lines begin each with א, Aleph, the next eight with ב, Beth, and so on. SEE ABECEDARIAN. Other Psalms have only one verse to each letter, in its order, as Ps 25; Ps 34. In others, again, as Ps 111; Ps 112, each verse is divided into two parts, and these hemistichs follow the alphabetical arrangement, like the whole verses of the last mentioned Psalms. The Lamentations of Jeremiah are mostly acrostic, some of the chapters repeating each letter one or more times. The last chapter of Proverbs also has the initial letters of its last twenty-two verses in alphabetical order. SEE POETRY.

The term acrostic is used in ecclesiastical history to describe a certain mode of performing the psalmody of the ancient Church. A single person, called the precentor, commenced the verse, and the people joined with him at the close. We find also the words hypopsalma and diapsalma, likewise ἀκροτελεύτιον and ἐφύμνιον, almost synonymous with acrostic, used to describe the same practice. They do not always mean the end of a verse, but sometimes what was added at the end of a psalm, or something repeated in the middle of it, e.g. the phrase "for his mercy endureth forever," repeated or chanted by the congregation. The Gloria Patri is by some writers called the epode or acroteleutic, because it was always sung at the end of the psalms (Bingham, Orig. Eccl. 1, 14).

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

 
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